NEW CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES BRING CHANGE TO PAYING FOR COLLEGE EXPENSES

The new Child Support Guidelines (Guidelines) include a new section to deal exclusively with college or other post-secondary educational expenses.

While the Guidelines officially go into effect on September 15th, they are already being used by attorneys, mediators and others.

At the outset, the Guidelines remind litigants that the divorce judge has discretion to order or not order a parent to contribute to college costs. In other words, it is not a given that a parent will be ordered to pay for all or part of college expenses.

The real change to existing support procedures is two-fold. First, the Guidelines establish of a maximum contribution to which a parent can be subject. Second, should the court determine a parent has the ability to pay a higher amount, the court must enter written findings supporting the determination.

Specifically, the Guidelines say:

“No parent shall be ordered to pay an amount in excess of fifty percent of the undergraduate, in-state resident costs of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, unless the Court enters written findings that a parent has the ability to pay a higher amount.”

The new limit will not apply to children already enrolled in college.

My Advice for Divorce Month

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Arbitrator, Mediator & Collaborative Lawyer

 

Divorce Month is almost here. In 2016, I saw one of the saddest, unnecessary, adversarial divorces ever. The cost in emotions, future harmony and money was enormous and unnecessary.

So again, I urge everyone who is facing divorce to consider seriously staying out of the public adversarial divorce system. It will hurt and it will hurt way into the future.

Staying out of the “system” generally means choosing one of two processes, either confidential mediation or confidential Collaborative Divorce. Take the time to read about these important confidential divorce approaches at The Three Approaches to Divorce.

If the two of you agree on only one thing, let it be that you will use confidential mediation or confidential Collaborative Divorce.

Hand in hand with the right approach is the right lawyer. Not all divorce lawyers are qualified to do divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Mediation requires training and success. Collaborative Attorneys need to be certified. Believe me, this is not the time to go to your third cousin’s friend’s real estate lawyer.

 

For more information about Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce:

The Three Approaches – Graphically

The Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council

The Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation

The Divorce Center

IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE FACING DIVORCE…this may help when they come to you for help. By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, arbitrator, mediator, collaborative attorney

Because people often wait until “after the holidays” to make the Decision to Divorce, February is Divorce Month. Since it is such an important Decision, I have put together this post on important considerations.

If someone facing divorce comes to you, I hope this article will help.

First StepThink about how divorce will affect your children. 

Think about what is in the best interest of your children.child-support-visitationOften unknown, or unappreciated, the Decision has an indelible and devastating effect on young children. Children often see divorce as the death of the child’s family, at least as the child has known the family. This “death” can result in outcomes including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, pain and depression. In the lives of young children, no decision of their parents can have a more negative effect than the decision to divorce.

Second Step – Talk alone with your spouse about the Decision. “But, we can’t talk! That’s why we’re divorcing!” Well listen, if your child was in the emergency room and you and your spouse had to talk to make a decision, would you talk and make the decision? If your answer is “Of course”, well, in your child’s life, this is just as important. Talk! Talk about: -Is divorce the only choice? -Is divorce the only answer? -Is divorce necessary now? If you cannot talk, then talk with a professional. Yes, it is that important in the lives of your children. Also, if the first professional “just isn’t right,” try another, and another, until you are both comfortable with the professional. If you have done all you can to keep the family “alive” and still divorce is necessary, then do it the right way.

Third Step– Pick the best divorce Process first, and then pick your divorce attorney.BestAll too often, people go to an attorney first. This is not the best approach. Attorneys are best at “what they do”. For example, consider this medical scenario, if you go to a surgical oncologist for advice on how to handle a newly discovered tumor, you will most likely get advice on the best surgery. If you go to a medical oncologist, you will get advice on chemotherapy. The radiology oncologist will give you advice on cancer radiation. It is the same in divorce, e.g. there are litigators, there are mediators, etc. Study and select the Process; then pick the attorney who works well in that Process.

There are two overall divorce processes – the Court Process and the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Process.

The Court Divorce Process

The Court Process assumes a confrontational route. (See: The Adversarial Approach for a different assumption).  The confrontation begins when you or your spouse declare, in a public document called a Complaint for Divorce, that you are suing for divorce and you want custody of the children (if any) and an equitable division of all property.
In the Complaint for Divorce, the plaintiff is the accuser and the defendant is the accused or defender. (In the Court Process, all proceedings and most documents are open to and available to the public for viewing and copying.)
In Massachusetts, there are rules that set out the procedure for using the Court Process. One of the rules is called: Standing Order 1-06 – the Time Standards.
When considering what Process is best for you, it is important to understand the effect of the Time Standards on your budget.  The Standards establish a list of events that must be attended to. Failure to attend to an event may result in sanctions. I say “attend to” because although Standing Order 1-06 orders certain acts, for example, the completion, filing, and serving of a Financial Statement within a certain period, experienced divorce attorneys know there are other rules that permit parties to skip, delay or get around a Time Standards rule.  Sound confusing? For experienced attorneys, it is not; for persons who represent themselves, it may be quite confusing.
For those considering cost, the Court Process, by its nature, will require you to pay your attorney for “attending to” a required “Time Standard” event. Given the number of “events” in Standing Order 1-06, this can be costly.
Under the Court Process, if you and your spouse cannot resolve your differences, you will have a court trial. Learn what a court trial entails by clicking and reading my article: Who does court trials anymore?

The ADR Divorce Process

In divorce, there are four alternative approaches to divorce resolution – non-confrontational adversarial, Collaborative divorce, mediation and arbitration. Regardless of the approach you use, the only time you will be in the court system is when you appear for a five minute uncontested divorce hearing. There is no Divorce Complaint! There is no plaintiff! There is no defendant! No Time Standards! No dirty linen washed in public!
Click here for more information about Non-confrontational Adversarial Divorce. The key to resolution in this process is for you and your spouse to have very competent non-confrontational adversarial attorneys. Be sure to check out an attorney’s reputation. You want a peacemaker not a warrior. If an attorney thinks like a general, talks like a general and moves like a general, he or she lives and works in the confrontational world. He or she is not a non-confrontational adversarial attorney.

Collaborative Divorce is a unique process where you, your spouse, and your own trained and certified collaborative attorneys, and other specialists, work together for, and only for, resolution of all issues.

In Divorce Mediation, you and your spouse work together to resolve your own issues with the help of a divorce mediator. The mediator is not a legal expert or advisor; the mediator establishes the atmosphere and uses proven techniques to help you and your spouse reach agreement on all divorce issues.

Arbitration is used in conjunction with any of the other ADR approaches. It is used to resolve deadlock, i.e., where parties cannot agree on an issue.
Choosing the right approach can make a real difference in the time and cost of this life-altering period.
Anthony C. Adamopoulos ©2016

Must Reads for Divorcing Couples by Susan Lillis, Attorney at Law

My colleague, Susan Lillis from Ipswich, has compiled an invaluable list of “readings” in response to often asked questions. Please take the time to check out her fine work. Her office is located

Ipswich River Place
4 South Main St., Suite 9,
Ipswich, MA 01938

 
article-0-05707195000005DC-856_468x309It’s been said that nothing can prepare you for divorce. Emotionally that can be true. From a practical standpoint, you can prepare yourself for the type of divorce you want and what you might expect after making that choice. That’s why in addition to filling out questionnaires, I send my prospective clients to my blog before meeting with them.While I try to make all articles on the blog relevant for divorcing couples, some offer that “what to expect” element better than others. Those articles are as follows:Is there a type of person who shouldn’t use collaborative divorce or divorce mediation? – The title is self-explanatory. There are certain personality types for whom collaborative divorce or mediation are not the right options. This article reinforces the expectations for when you take part in either collaborative divorce or divorce mediation.Read the articleSetting the boundaries for a smooth divorce – Again, this article is of the “what you can expect” variety. It also highlights some of the ways you can avoid negotiations from becoming contentious.Read the article

A guaranteed way to reduce your lawyer bill – In a divorce, time is money. Specifically, your attorney’s time is money. Divorces where parties do not have all their financial statements and other paperwork prepared will typically result in more hours for the attorney, resulting in a larger legal bill.

Read the article

5 common missteps in mediation – Perhaps the first paragraph of this article says it best, “In mediation, there’s an overall assumption that both parties are reasonable and are willing to work together to reach an agreement. In addition, it is not uncommon for at least one of the spouses to be anxious to get through the mediation in order to put the divorce behind him or her. This can sometimes lead spouses to assume that some that details of the mediation agreement do not require a high level of attention, or that if something important comes up later they will be able to discuss it with their ex spouse and come to a reasonable arrangement. Unfortunately, these assumptions can lead to the more common missteps in a divorce mediation.”

Read the article

Life and death divorce matters – Life insurance for your spouse is an important matter in a marriage. It becomes just as important in a divorce. Particularly when there is child support and spousal support or alimony involved. This article takes an in-depth look at an often overlooked part of any divorce.

Read the article

 

Must Reads for Divorcing Couples